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eBay fan column: Leave nothing to Chance

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Many of you were expecting my owner, Howard, to be writing this. But I, his dog, feel I must take over control of this column. My reasoning for this is two-fold: 1. His objectivity. If my owner were to give his NHL playoff "predictions", it's the same broken record seemingly every April. "This is the ' year, its our best team ever, we are getting healthy at the right time, we just need great special teams play and solid goaltending and . . . the Cup is ours." Blah, blah,blah. But, what would you expect from someone who, shortly after relocating to St. Louis in 1970, was taught to skate by the courageous Barclay Plager and the classy Craig Patrick (back when he was sporting the white sealskin skates of the California Golden Seals), still rambles on about Kevin O'Shea's overtime time goal off the crossbar and the back of Cesar Maniago to beat the then-hated North and alas, removed the very seats in Parquet Section 18, Row E he and his late father sat in at the Arena for so many goals and Cujo saves. He has to use his Glenn Hall replica bucket almost every time the play the when he looks over at their bench and sees the core of "what should have been my team" wearing those red and white sweaters. Obviously, as a canine, I can appreciate absolute loyalty, but it can go too far. 2. This reason is most important. I am literally dog-tired of my owner taking all the credit for his recent run of "amazing, uncanny" sports forecasting. I now admit, for the very first time, being the one responsible for this success. Let me explain. Hockey has been a fixture in my family for almost half a century. My great, great, grandfather, Chance, shared season seats high above the large pipe organ at Chicago Stadium back in the late 50's/early 60's, with his lifelong friend, Mr. Peabody. At the time, Mr. Peabody was somewhat well-known for his appearances with his sidekick Sherman on the prime-time hit "Fractured Fairy Tales" (often shown during the "Rocky and Billwinkle Show") and especially his invention of a time-traveling device, known as the "Way-Back Machine". Unbenowst to most, Peabody was (with apologies to Woodstock and Denis Leary) probably the greatest celebrity hockey player ever. A powerful skater with an -like slapshot, he almost never lost an important faceoff and was as fearless as Al Arbour when it came to dropping to his knees and blocking a shot. How many modern players do that, much less bespeckled? Behind Chance and Peabody in the very last row of that same section they noticed a balding young man and his toddler son would share a single seat for about half of the games. The boy could recite the entire lineup (with numbers) backwards and forwards. He also loved Bobby Hull and every time Hull scored (Bobby, not Dennis) he'd sing, "Bobby Hull the Golden Jet, his slapshot goes right through the net, Go Bobby, Go Bobby, Go Bobby, Go." I later found out the pre-game routine was that father (a traveling toy salesman) and son would meet up with some friends at long-defunct Braverman's Deli and, not being a man of tremendous means, would purchase a standing room seat for his son. As fate would have it in that magical year of 1961, my great, great grandfather went to watch the Stanley Cup Finals at a popular near North side watering hole (owned at the time by Jack Leahy, whose Uncle Frank was the legendary head coach of the Fighting ) and as the place was packed he sat down at the first available spot within good viewing of the Lloyd Petit broadcast. It was then, as he turned to his immediate right that he noticed the balding young man and struck up a conversation. That night the won the Stanley Cup and no one could have guessed then that scene would not occur again for 43 years or more. The celebrating went on until the wee hours. Just when it looked like the festivities were starting to wane, in walked Vasko with one of the MacNeil brothers (Al, I think). It was shortly after 5 a.m. when my great, great grandfather's celebrating caught up with him and he hit the floor with a smile and a thud. The man brought Chance home to sleep it off and when he awoke (with a nasty headache) he asked the man if he might stay awhile. The man was delighted and when told of his new companion the little boy grinned ear to ear as he recognized Chance as the funny looking "guy" with the tail who sits next to the other funny looking guy with the "glasses" -- a reference to Peabody. And Chance stayed, and so did his son, and his son, and now me. But to really understand why my owner is such an outstanding prognosticator, let's return to Mr. Peabody for a moment. Mr. Peabody's passion for life kept him busy 24/7, and thus he never had time to start a family. Contrary to the rumors that swirled around him after his death, he was not gay, and in fact, was somewhat of a ladies hound. Prior to his passing in the mid-'70s, Peabody knew he could not entrust a non-canine with his invention, so he gave Chance the "Way-back machine" (with instructions) and his favorite souvenir — a Victoriaville model Bobby Orr stick that perportedly still has two goals left in it. It has been an unwritten rule in my family that the machine is not to be used for anything other than scientific purposes. My father never used the machine and neither did his father, but back in the fall of 1999 I took the machine out of moth balls and used it. My owner was going through some very rough times and I thought an amazing prediction would be just what the doctor ordered to lift his spirits. So when I told him that the Rams were going to win the Super Bowl and someone named Kurt Warner was going to emerge from a Hy-Vee to lead them to the promised land at 150-1 and it happened, guess who took the credit and has ever since. The Yankees, the Lakers, the , the Terps, the Bucs. From now on, if you want the answers ask me the questions. As far as this years' NHL playoffs go, you don't have to be Arnold Ziffel to know that the road to the Stanley Cup goes directly to and through Detroit. They are the modern-day benchmark for the way hockey should and is played. Can they realistically be challenged in their own conference? Yes. Can they be beaten four out of seven games? Highly unlikely. Let's examine the teams who can present a challenge: Vancouver: They may not beat you, but they can beat you up. They are a big, bruising team and they take a lot out of the opposition win or lose. The Eastern Conference teams want to see the match up with the just to soften them up. Dallas and Colorado: Good teams, but not good enough to beat the . St. Louis: The have to get by both Colorado (with whom they historically have trouble with), and the (whom they couldn't beat in five tries) just to get to the Western Conference finals. They have the incentive (coach Joel Quenneville is a goner with a first-round exit, not to mention GM Larry Pleau. Look for John Ferguson Jr. to be promoted), they have the the Norris Trophy winner in and the hands-down Rookie of the year in , plus playoff-tested gamers such as and . Will do his annual playoff Houdini imitation or score? Mr. Peabody used to love Sid Abel and if he were alive he would grab (Sid's grandson) by the collar and tell him "you've got the champion gene, believe in yourself." If the are to advance throughout the playoffs Johnson is the key, not the recently acquired . One final Blue note to Bill Laurie: Relax your rules on canines attending the games. Before the ban I was 8-0-1 in my last nine games attended and 3-0 against the . If you really want to win, send me a ticket, or at least let me go with my owner. The Eastern Conference crown will be hotly contested, and while the have been making headlines, the have been getting consistantly better throughout the year and seem to be peaking. Ottawa is very tough at home and has to be admired for keeping its focus despite the front-office turmoil. First round winners: Detroit, Dallas, Vancouver, St. Louis, New Jersey, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay Second round winners: Detroit, Vancouver, New Jersey, Ottawa Third round winners: Detroit, New Jersey Stanley Cup winner: Detroit
Tagged: Red Wings, Devils, Flyers, Blues, Canucks, Brett Hull, Dallas Drake, Scott Mellanby, Brent Johnson

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